Islamabad - Idara Taleem-o-Aagahi held a policy dialogue on the political economy of learning and right to education in wake of Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014.

Given the challenges of inequality and the constitutional provision of Article 25-A or the right to education in 2010 as a duty of the state for all children aged 5-16, the political economy of learning needs alignment of state laws, public policy and investments in human resource development in Pakistan.

Therefore, ASER 2014 took up the challenge and piloted the district-wise constituency mapping this year, in the conviction that this will make it imperative for the elected political leadership to deliver on their election promises in their constituencies during their term. The basic purpose behind the constituency mapping and the subsequent policy dialogue was to highlight citizens-led public accountability initiatives such as ASER and turn attention of the higher tiers of power and policy to this dimension to track in specific political geographies/constituencies about who learns in Pakistan, and who does not and devise practical policy interdictions thereof.

Pakistan continues to underperform in its social indicators predominantly, especially education and learning outcomes. Political will to make and implement policy despite opposition along with poor public investment has been underscored as the primary reason for the underperformance of the state machinery to provide free and fair education to all children without discrimination.

Moreover, sustained political instability and regional and provincial imbalances in economic growth have perforated the educational crisis in Pakistan. The constituency mapping is reflective of the provincial imbalances; the education updates on Karachi reveal that 51% of the literates in the district are girls, which is paradoxical to the prominent belief. Lower Dir reveals that only 14% mothers are educated. Education statistics in Narowal reveal that 40.1% of the children aged 3-16 are out of school.

On a positive note, statistics on Quetta reveal that only 10% children aged 5-16 years are out of school which is a positive signal with respect to the overall grim picture of education in the district. The year 2015 is a very important because this is the year the Millennium Development Goals are meant to be fulfilled. Furthermore, the year 2016 will be another significant step forward, as the Sustainable Development Goals will be launched.

The policy dialogue attracted attention and participation from various illustrious figures from social and political backgrounds, such as Minister of Planning, National Reforms and Development Ahsan Iqbal who commented on the data from his constituency NA-117 and highlighted the government’s initiatives aiming to address the gaps.

Furthermore, civil society representative including Musharraf Zaidi, campaign director Alif Ailaan, underscored the need for active political engagement and commitment towards proper utilisation of statistics and data on education and formulation and implementation of feasible education policies. “The geographical and ideological spread reflected how united we all are when it comes to the cause of edification. The AJUBA family (Representatives from countries conducting survey similar to ASER) pointed out towards the similarity in issues and problems in education and pressed for collective solutions from the community, policymakers, government representatives and all education stakeholders.